VALorisation of treated wastewater and slUdgE in view of Circular Economy and INdustrial symbiosis



Valorisation of wastewater and sludge according to Circular Economy and Industrial Symbiosis

The industrial research project started on July 2019 and has been funded by Emilia-Romagna Region POR-FESR 2014-2020 programme, within the intelligent specialisation strategy (S3) and with reference to the Circular Economy and Sustainable Development topics.

The general project objective is the optimization of the value chain related to the treatment of municipal and industrial wastewater by applying circular economy principles and proposing high TRL solutions and technologies (KET) in order to promote the closure of primary goods cycles such as water resource, nutrients and sludge, increasing the system efficiency in the energy use and introducing new business models.

Project Activities

The project is based on 5 main Work Packages:

  1. WP1. Development of prototype ICT systems for treated wastewater quality on-line monitoring and for the definition of its optimal uses, with the purpose to verify and promote safe and reliable practices for direct wastewater reuse.
  2. WP2. Analysis of the effects of direct use of treated wastewater on the efficiency of precision irrigation systems and on edible crops growth in a dedicated experimental field site.
  3. WP3. Evaluation of technologies and processes aimed at improving wastewater treatments plants (WWTPs) sustainability, promoting the recovery of raw materials to be re-used in wastewater treatment processes for nutrient removal, in agriculture as fertilizers or for energy production purposes.
  4. WP4. Investigation of the environmental and health safety aspects related to wastewater reuse and sewage sludge application in agriculture, with a specific focus on emerging contaminants (EC) and micro-plastics (MP). The project will also test technologies verifying EC and MP removal rates from wastewater and evaluating their potential implementation within WWTP treatment processes.
  5. WP5. Development of an Industrial Symbiosis Platform for municipal and industrial wastewater treatment processes in order to promote and enhance virtuous paths for waste materials and energy fluxes exchanges among productive sites in the view of increasing system environmental and economic sustainability.

Main objectives

The project aims to implement within the municipal and industrial wastewater treatment cycles the approaches set down by circular economy and industrial symbiosis ‘by proposing new technologies, processes and business models with the final purpose to enhance the overall potential for resource recovery. To this end, the planned activities are:

  • implementation of ICT technologies for on-line monitoring of the quality of treated wastewater and development of automatic control protocols in accordance with the current national legislation for the wastewater reuse (DM 185/2003) as well as with the Regulation (UE) 2020/741;
  • evaluation of the effects of the application of treated wastewater on planted pilot scale plots, for the analysis of the functionality of intelligent irrigation systems and for the assessment of the agronomic effects associated in order to demonstrate the feasibility, safety and potential of water reuse practices;
  • validation of technologies for the recovery of secondary raw materials based on:
    • microalgae cultivation for the treatment of nutrient loaded streams (e.g. recirculated flows from the sludge treatment line) with the enhancement of the grown biomass;
    • transformation of sewage sludge by combining pyrolysis and reforming in order to evaluate the opportunity of reusing the derived secondary raw materials (bio-char);
    • transformation of sewage sludge by hydrothermal liquefaction in order to evaluate  the opportunities of reusing the derived secondary raw materials (bio-oil)).
  • in-depth study of safety aspects connected to direct treated wastewater reuse by monitoring selected emerging contaminants (EC) and microplastics (MC), defining appropriate analytical techniques. Some technologies for their removal from wastewater will be tested;
  • development and implementation of a digital platform to favor possible industrial symbiosis paths within the ER productive systems.


Ing. Luigi Petta
Via Martiri di Monte Sole, 4
40129 Bologna

Tel. 051 6098759


Laboratorio LEA


Pro ambiente



The project is co-financed under the Regional Operational Program European Regional Development Fund (POR FESR 2014-2020) of the Emilia Romagna Region and by the Development and Cohesion Fund (FSC)

POR FEST Emilia Romagna
Fondo per lo sviluppo e la coesione
Unione Europea
Repubblica Italiana
Regione Emilia Romagna

ENEA - Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development
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